PORTLAND, Ore — The sidewalks outside Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland's Eliot neighborhood were bustling with patients and nurses Wednesday morning. Safety was top of mind for many of them, who told KGW they can’t walk around the campus without being on high alert.
“It’s crazy,” said Demiya Johnson, a patient who just gave birth at Legacy Emanuel. “I see a lot of nurses and doctors walking around with mace in their hands.”
“I actually really don’t like coming down to this area anymore,” another patient added. “The hospital here is really good, I like it, but I kind of just run to my car.”
Recently an employee at the children’s clinic, Randall Children's Pediatric Care, was assaulted and robbed while coming into work. For many who work at the medical center, they said it was just the latest incident in a long list of safety issues that have put them in close proximity to danger.
Social worker Jacob Wicks said he's seen drug use and violence right outside the clinic windows over the past three years. He said recent shootings at Dawson Park and nearby homeless camps make him feel unsafe.
“Every time there’s been gunfire in the past two years, I’ve been in the clinic and I heard it. It’s frightening,” he said.
“Emanuel is not a safe place,” added Johnson. “It hasn’t been for years. They’ve been trying to get these people out of the park, but they won’t go nowhere.”
The hospital hired security guards to patrol the medical building closest to the park and they are increasing their hours. However, Wicks said a security guard only goes so far.
“I think this is a larger problem than Legacy can handle … everybody is just shaken, we’re losing providers, we’re losing clinic staff — everybody’s worried.”
Cindy Hill, the hospital’s interim president, said they’re installing bulletproof glass at one of the children’s clinics and fences around parts of the campus. They’re even talking about potentially moving the clinic closest to Dawson Park.
“We are going to address this and continue to address this — we are here to provide care for patients and families and to make sure that our staff is safe,” said Hill.
They’re also asking Portland police for increased presence. Portland police told KGW the demand for their services is higher than their resources and because of this they can't do as much proactive police work and as many extra patrols as they'd like. They are asking for patience as they respond to crime in the city.